An “imposed” settlement?

 Israeli newspapers are seething with rumors of an likely attempt by the Obama administration to “impose” a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That seems unlikely to me, if for no other reason than you can’t very well impose a two-state solution when there are, in fact, three entities that are part of this equation, and one of them – Hamas – has no interest in anything resembling peace.

If the past is any guide, these rumors probably emanate from somewhere in the vicinity of the Israeli Prime Minister’s office – or maybe the Foreign Minister’s. The goal: to rally the troops around the government in Jerusalem and deepen public skepticism about the Obama administration’s intentions.

Jewish leaders here can be counted on to respond angrily to the faintest hint of interest in an imposed solution.

In part, that makes sense; Israel is a sovereign nation that must make its own decisions about critical security issues.

But it also seems to me that this dread of a U.S.-imposed settlement is a little disingenuous.

You hear this all the time: “everybody knows the shape of an ultimate settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.” It involves the Palestinians getting almost all of the West Bank, with land swaps to account for the settlement blocks Israel will retain; some kind of face-saving solution for the Palestinians on the refugee issue that doesn’t involve an open-ended “right of return”; a creative solution on Jerusalem. That’s what every recent administration and every recent Israeli government have been working toward, at least nominally.

It’s inconceivable to me that if the Obama administration wanted to impose a settlement – and I don’t believe for an instant that it does – it would stray very far from the outline accepted by every recent Israeli government.

I’m betting that a lot of the opposition to a U.S.-imposed settlement comes from those Israelis who don’t want ANY settlement, imposed or negotiated, if it involves giving back most of the West Bank and any change in Jerusalem’s status quo.

Negotiations, especially Middle East style, are a handy device if you don’t want to go anywhere very fast without taking the blame. An imposed settlement – even if it reflects what recent Israeli governments have said are their goals – will rob peace process opponents of the tool of delay.

The same calculus, by the way, probably holds true for the Palestinians; many of their leaders don’t want an imposed settlement because it would mean an end to their dream of a Palestinian state encompassing all of Israel, or at least a state that no Israeli government could possibly accept.

Before you write and criticize me for suggesting an imposed US settlement is a good idea, go back to paragraph 2 of this blog. Let me reiterate; I can’t fathom how it could work, under current circumstances. I am saying that much of the angst surrounding the latest rumors of such a policy is coming from those who don’t want a settlement of any kind.


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.